From Lost to Leading

Helping Alex Lessard, junior in public relations, and Cody Watson, junior in general management, Megan Varhola, senior in accounting, reacts to "memes" of dinosaurs. Lessard adds to an intro video for the featured films Jurassic Park and Jurassic World presented by UPC Thursday, Friday and Sunday. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

The Union Program Council (UPC) President, Megan Varhola, is extremely involved on campus and has dozens of wonderful K-State memories she’s more than willing to share if you ask her, but calling Manhattan “home” wasn’t always so easy for her.

“(Megan) may refer to herself as ‘boring’, but she always has a planner full of things to do,” Erika Davis, program advisor for the K-State Student Union, said. “She is involved in Alpha Xi Delta, UPC, serves as a representative on Union Governing Board (UGB), works at the UPC front desk, has been interviewing for internships and job positions and is a busy accounting student.”

Varhola said she does indeed call herself “boring,” but her busy schedule has proven otherwise. Being busy has always made her happier and made her feel like she was truly part of campus.

“I’m happiest when I have a busy schedule,” Varhola said. “I feel like the more productive I am, the better I can be. I just make sure to keep a planner, prioritize tasks and try to never take on more than I can handle.”

Being busy was Varhola’s way to beat the freshman blues. In high school, she was a member of the student council and the spirit committee. She was looking for something similar on campus but didn’t feel very connected and couldn’t figure out where her place was. Varhola said she felt really lost until she heard about the UPC meetings.

“My mom actually encouraged me to attend,” Varhola said. “After going to the first meeting I fell in love. I volunteered and applied for a position because of the welcoming and inclusive environment I felt at their meetings and events.”

After serving on the UPC executive team for two years as the After Hours co-chair and campus outreach chair, Varhola said she decided to apply for the position of president.

“Megan is a very humble person,” Beth Bailey, assistant director of the K-State Student Union, said. “She leads because it is the right thing to do.”

Varhola’s job isn’t always easy or even well-defined. She is a member of the Union Renovation Core Committee and attends UGB meetings as a UPC representative. Varhola also conducts retreats and attends meetings and plans banquets but her main role is to help support her team in any way and at any time she’s needed.

“I spend around 10 hours a week in the office or in meetings and then work five more hours a week at the desk,” Varhola said. “Being busy isn’t hard. What’s difficult is the transition each year. There is a huge learning curve, and you don’t always know your place right away.”

Varhola said that she owes her success to “the support of amazing advisers and other students that make everything as seamless as possible.” Despite these challenges, her co-workers and advisers have said that Varhola handles everything with grace.

“Megan has an infectious smile,” Bailey said. “She is a lovely person, an outstanding, organized, dedicated leader and she’s a hard worker. I’m very excited to have Megan serve as UPC president this year. Everyone should be inspired to be as involved.”

Varhola said she plans to make the most of her year as president and the last year she will spend at K-State as an undergraduate student. Her main goal is to move the UPC outside of its comfort zone and to plan new events, meet new people and truly leave a mark on the campus.

Abby Krstulic, senior in hospitality management, works with Vahola as the UPC Forums Co-Chair.

“Planning our events will be a challenge with all of the construction happening around the Union, but Megan is great with being innovative and thinking of new ways to do things,” Krstulic said. “I think we’ll reach even more students than before under her leadership.”

Varhola said that the UPC has given her so many things. Because of her responsibilities there, she has gained leadership skills, communication skills and met lifelong friends, but most importantly, Varhola said she has found a home in the UPC.

“College is about making memories,” Varhola said. “No one looks back on their lives and tells people about the time they studied. They talk about the memories and that’s what UPC does. It gives people a chance to make K-State more than an educational institution, but a home.”